Skip to main content

Michigan State University masthead

This summer’s Native American Business Institute builds relationships, trust, and potential

By Kait Kisel, student writer

Like previous years, this summer the Eli Broad College of Business hosted the Native American Business Institute (NABI), a week-long, pre-college program for Native American high school students in the upcoming school year.

Participants in the 2018 Native American Business Institute pose at The Rock at Michigan State University. Photo courtesy Kevin Leonard.
Participants in the 2018 Native American Business Institute pose at the Rock at Michigan State University. Photo courtesy Kevin Leonard.

The “business boot camp” June 23–29 consisted of corporate presentations and Native American speakers, as well as team-building and leadership skill-building activities. Included in the skills that students are taught are resume writing, interviewing, public speaking, and personal branding.

“We talk about diversity and inclusion in so many ways and so many contexts. This really translates talk into action,” Broad College Dean Sanjay Gupta said of the program. “The NABI is all about empowering a special group of people with the kind of skills, knowledge, and awareness that they don’t typically get. What we are doing is going head-in to tackling a very significant issue around diversity and inclusion.”

The NABI pilot program began in 2011, funded through a $23,000 grant from the MSU Office for Inclusion and intercultural Initiatives, a group which seeks to “create inclusive excellence at Michigan State University.”

Since 2012, Kevin Leonard, senior program coordinator of Broad College Multicultural Business Programs and Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa tribal member, has led the NABI. Starting with a mere eight students during the pilot program in 2011, the NABI has since hosted 39 students during its most recent run.

Kevin Leonard, Multicultural Business Programs senior program coordinator.
Kevin Leonard, Multicultural Business Programs senior program coordinator.

This is in part thanks to Leonard’s use of social media to connect with education coordinators in tribes outside of Michigan to bring out-of-state students into the program.

“We want students to develop a vision for their future, set goals to achieve this vision, and develop the relationships and skills necessary to accomplish their goals,” Leonard said. “We hope students will choose to pursue higher education, a degree in business and a career in business, and contribute to the growth and development of Native American communities.”

Through NABI, students learn about contemporary issues in the Native American community and ways they can contribute to these communities while also getting the chance to hear from Native American professionals and entrepreneurs in diverse fields.

The highlight of the 2018 program was a presentation from Andra Rush, founder, CEO, and president of Rush Group LLC. As a Native American woman entrepreneur, she shared her personal story of creating and growing her trucking business in Detroit.

Jacob Locklear of the Lumbee Tribe, who participated in the program in 2017 and 2018, said the Broad College “was able to obtain the support of large companies to help every participant become better businessmen and women. Their use of diversity of kids from around the country helps to make this program unique in every way possible.”

Andra Rush (front row center, in black jacket), founder, CEO and president of the Rush Group, poses with participants after her presentation at the 2018 Native American Business Institute, hosted by the Broad College of Business. Photo courtesy Kevin Leonard.
Andra Rush (front row center, in black jacket), founder, CEO, and president of the Rush Group, poses with participants after her presentation at the 2018 Native American Business Institute, hosted by the Broad College of Business. Photo courtesy Kevin Leonard.

“This program has taken my good skills and qualities and made them better. The skills and qualities in which I thought I was good at, I now feel that I am the best I’ve ever been in these departments,” said Locklear.

Said Gordon Bennett of the Wyandotte Nation, who participated in 2016 and 2018: “From being the youngest of the group my first year, to now being a leader, my experiences and knowledge continue to grow. Majorly, I have learned to be more confident when presenting in front of a large audience.”

Each participant in the program is assigned to a team that researches, writes, and delivers a presentation about one of the presenting companies at the closing program, contributing to the building of their skill sets needed to excel in their future collegiate careers. During this exercise, students build relationships with one another, learning from one another’s diverse experiences.

“I have learned the importance of building relationships based on trust and a commitment to developing the full potential of youth in our communities,” Leonard said.

Leonard has set the goal of continuing the development of relationships with Native American tribes in Michigan and beyond in order to develop a pipeline of Native youth for the Eli Broad College of Business, as well as increasing MSU scholarships for Native youth.


Michigan State University

Contact Information Site Map Privacy Statement Site Accessibility
Call MSU: (517) 355-1855 Visit: msu.edu MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer. Notice of Nondiscrimination
SPARTANS WILL. © Michigan State University